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ATP Gstaad: Can Federer win a second title in the Alps?

Steven Webb in ATP Tour 21 Jul 2013
Roger Federer won the Swiss Open in 2004, but hasn't played in Gstaad since.

Roger Federer’s clay court season 2.0 continues this week at the Credit Agricole Suisse Open in Gstaad.

The world number five added the tournament to his schedule shortly after his shock Wimbledon exit. Eager to put the second round defeat behind him, the Swiss also entered the German Tennis Championships, claiming he simply wanted to “win a lot of matches.” 

The plan has been a partial success so far. Federer won three matches in Hamburg, two of which went to three sets, but he looked short of his best form, and fell to 114th-ranked qualifier Federico Delbonis on Saturday. Moreover, the 17-time Grand Slam champion appeared to be playing with some taping on his back. So can Federer get back to winning ways at an ATP 250 event he hasn’t played since he won it in 2004?

If he is nursing a back injury, Federer will be grateful for his first round bye in Gstaad. In the second round, he will face either a rematch with Daniel Brands, who he beat at the same stage in Hamburg, or a clash with Marco Chiudinelli. 

Federer and Chiudinelli played junior events together in the early 1990s. “It was the only time I could beat him,” recalls the world number 164, who has been playing Challenger tournaments for most of 2013 and was granted a wild card into the Swiss Open.

Federer looks to have a winnable route to the Gstaad final. He has never lost to Juan Monaco, his projected semi-final opponent, and is 15-0 against sixth-seeded Mikhail Youzhny, one of the most clear-cut head-to-heads on the ATP tour. Of the other players in the top section of the draw, only eighth seed Robert Bautista Agut has a ranking inside the top 50.

The lower half of the draw is headed by another Swiss, Stanislas Wawrinka, a player who enjoyed a very strong clay court season in the spring. Wawrinka won a title in Portugal, reached the final in Madrid and made the last eight of the French Open. The good news for the second seed is that he has beaten Federer before on the dirt; the bad news is that it is his only win in 14 career meetings with the maestro. 

The third seed in Gstaad is the slumping Janko Tipsarevic, who will travel to Switzerland straight from a tournament in Bogota. The Serb desperately needs a strong result to arrest his tumble down the rankings, but he could run into Delbonis in the quarter-finals, and does not look in good enough form to derail Wawrinka. Fifth seed Feliciano Lopez could make some noise, yet the Spaniard has been better on grass than on clay this season. 

A certain Sergiy Stakhovsky also lurks in the bottom section of the draw, and we can bet that Federer would love nothing more than a chance to avenge his four-set loss to the Ukrainian at the All England Club. But Stakhovsky has come back down to earth with a bump after Wimbledon, losing in the first round in Bastad and in the first round of qualifying in Hamburg. The chances of him reaching the Gstaad final are slim to none.

On paper, Federer is the overwhelming favourite to triumph at the Swiss Open. However, as he is increasingly aware, lower-ranked opponents can spring a surprise, and many rivals sense that the great man is more vulnerable these days. Playing Gstaad is, is some ways, a thankless task for Federer. A win will merely confirm that he is the best player in a relatively weak field. Anything less than a win will lead to further talk of decline.

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ATP Gstaad: Can Federer win a second title in the Alps?

A look at Roger Federer's draw as he prepares to play the Swiss Open for the first time in nine years.

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